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Education, the best deterrent to crime

Most African-American youth are doing well and on track to discovering legal ways to become successful in the future.

Too many African-American youth, however, are imprisoned in environments where they determine at an early age that unless they take drastic measures, which are often illegal, they will fall short of achieving the so-called American dream. These are youth who are typically living in poverty environments and single parent homes, that discover early in life, quick and illegal ways to make money, even if it is short-lived.

In these environments, it appears as if the drug pusher has become a more successful role model for these students than has the person who seeks to make a living through honest, hard work. In these environments, violence appears to become the norm. In one such city, Chicago, the University of Chicago reported 762 people were killed in 2016, the deadliest year in two decades. This was an increase of 58 percent from 2015. The common theme is that the victims were mainly blacks and in their teens. 

Research has shown these effects are especially prevalent within most disadvantaged communities and among those demographic groups that are more likely to face incarceration, namely young minority males. 

Economic factors relating to crime

In addition, this high rate of incarceration is expensive for both federal and state governments. On average, in 2012, it cost more than $29,000 to house an inmate in federal prison (Congressional Research Service 2013). In total, the United States spent over $80 billion on corrections expenditures in 2010, with more than 90 percent of these expenditures occurring at the state and local levels (Policy Memo, May 2014, The Hamilton Project: Ten Economic Facts about crime and incarceration in the United States).

The evidence is compelling. Until the so-called minority “underclass” is educated and brought into the mainstream of society, we will continue to experience the tragedy of those who do not have preying on those who do. The fact that most inner-city school districts serve majority black student populations should not be used as an excuse for low academic achievement. Educators must begin by adopting an institutional philosophy that clearly states, “all children can learn.”

Unfortunately, research indicates that most teachers have low expectations for inner-city black and poor children. The self-fulfilling prophecy operates in the classroom just as it functions in other situations: people tend to act in ways that significant others in the environment expect them to act. 

We must begin again to believe that schools can make a difference. 

Ethics should also be an integral part of a school system’s curriculum at all grade levels. People endowed with a sense of ethics, respect the rights of others and do not kill randomly and without remorse. Community and private sector support are key to the success of a school system implementing such “culture” changes. With community and private sector support, inner-city school systems can develop strategies to prevent our children from being attracted to crime.